The Azteca Stadium. 104,000 loud, unified, and passionate Mexicans screaming down your neck is nothing short of frightening for the eighteen Americans who have never faced Mexico at their home stadium. It’s been three years since the bitter rivals have played in the Azteca, which was a World Cup qualifier that ended in a 2-1 loss for United States. The Yanks have never won a match in Mexico, and in their seven trips to the Azteca Stadium the US has been outscored 14-3, with only one draw coming in 1997. It’s quite a daunting task for Jurgen Klinsmann’s first match against Mexico outside of the States, and with a young roster the challenges will be immense.
ROSTER: Fortunately for the traveling team, six players currently play in Mexico professionally, including Edgar Castillo and Joe Corona who are two of the only three players who have played for both sides. Klinsmann’s young roster is highlighted in the backfield where recent EPl transfer Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson are the most experienced of the group with only eleven caps between them. The midfield will be without Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley but will highlight MLSers Graham Zusi, Kyle Beckerman, and Brek Shea; who will possibly make his first US appearance in months. Veteran DaMarcus Beasley will make another comeback tour on the national team thanks to his experience and recent form for Mexican side Puebla. The forwards will consist of Azteca “fan favorite” Landon Donovan, goal scorer Chris Wondolowski, and Herculez Gomez, whose play in the last six months internationally and domestic has been phenomenal. Terrence Boyd will look to translate his fine club form into international play and San Jose Earthquake forward Alan Gordon hopes to earn his first cap for the US. Mexico meanwhile is coming off national momentum with the U-23s gold medal in London and will have European superstars Javier Hernández and Andrés Guardado on the starting XI. See detailed roster here.
KEYS TO VICTORY FOR THE US
-Possession of the ball is always crucial for any Klinsmann squad, but it will be crucial versus a talented Mexican midfield.
-Score early. Taking the crowd out of the game early will relieve the pressure off the younger players and give an opportunity to get away with at least a draw. Without Dempsey, Herculez Gomez will take the forefront as the top goal scorer for the team and the key offensive player for the US.
-Jose Torres needs to live up to his expectations. He knows the land, the players, fans, and playing style. If there was anytime for him to shine in the midfield it needs to be tonight.
-With so many young players playing versus a rival like Mexico it will be interesting to see how they respond to the ruckus crowd.
-Will Brek Shea be able to get over his mental and physical slump?
-If the US scores, will it come from a set piece, an offensive counter, or other?
-Although it will be called a “friendly”, this is an opportunity for Mexico to really make a statement as the best soccer nation in CONCACAF and a growing power in international play.
-Mexico is far beyond the US in talent development and soccer form, tonight will be their chance to leave no doubt to which country is the best. Expect Mexico to win handily, exploiting the youth of the American backfield.
FINAL: Mexico- 3 US- 1
TONIGHT at 8PM ET on ESPN2
Classic look from Gatorade about USMNT and their travels
The last time we played in the Azteca